Photo Friday

Fun times at Beachcomber Campground in Cape May, NJ.

{Going underwater for the first time!}

{Jumping off the dock for the first time.}

{Too many giant smores.}

What did you do this week? We went to the campground, came back for art class and went to a concert

Have a great weekend!


Art class: printmaking

It sure seems that every Thursday (art class day) is 95 degrees or above with at least 90% humidity! It's been a hot, dry summer. The dry part is good (for art class anyway), but it's a little tricky to stay cool outside while making art. Maybe I should invent some kind of art-making class we could do in the pool…

Last week we did some printmaking. The kids enjoyed making their own printing plates from foam plates after I read "Swimmy," a book that features illustrations created by printing different materials. First, the girls created a background on their paper with watercolors. They really like using watercolors (or paint of any kind). I did have to remind them not to mix too many colors together or else they would end up with "mud." I don't usually tell them which colors to mix or not to mix colors, but when they've created a beautiful color by mixing two paints, I hate to see it covered up with a muddy brown.

While the backgrounds were drying, the girls created their printing plates by drawing images of fish on foam plates (cut into squares). Some tried their hand at creating their own, but other wanted me to draw the outline for them, after which they filled them in with patterns, eyes, scales and fins.

We put those aside and went back to the backgrounds, printing with doilies, bubble wrap, rolling pencils, the lips of cups, pencil erasers and even fingers! The bubble wrap was probably the favorite material, and it was really tempting to pop it while painting on it!

Ideally, the printing plates would have paint applied to it with a brayer, but in this case we used tempera paint with a somewhat dry paintbrush. I had them test their plates on a separate piece of paper first to make sure the lines they drew were deep enough to resist the paint. (A few needed to be re-drawn.) This was Malayna's favorite art class so far.

After the underwater scenes were finished, we worked on artist trading cards. I gave each girl 8 small cards that I had cut from heavy paper and told them that they could "print" each card and then at the end of class everyone would trade cards, so we would have a card from each person in class. They loved this part! I was really impressed with the ideas they had for printing. One girl even did her own version of monoprinting - she painted on one card and then made several prints from that one image. They were so creative!


Art class: collage

Last week's art class was filled with cutting, pasting, drawing and lots of talking. I read the book "Baby Rattlesnake" and we talked about patterns, especially the ones we saw on the borders inside the book. Each girl created a snake collage with desert backgrounds and patterned borders.

The night before class, I cut strips of wallpaper for the girls to use as borders around their paper. I used wallpaper sample books for all the patterned paper in this project. It was free and the kids loved sorting through the papers and finding different patterns. Instead of using glue sticks (I wasn't sure they were going to stick), each girl had a small paper cup filled with glue and a paintbrush for applying. This definitely took up a lot of time, but that was a good thing. They enjoyed "painting" with the glue and getting messy.

After the borders were glued on, we put the papers aside to dry and traced and cut snakes from templates. Some needed help since the snakes were curvy. (I'm very thankful for my assistant Tessa, who helps me fill water cups, clean brushes, wash hands, help with cutting, etc, etc.) After the snakes were ready, they cut and glued small pieces of paper to the snake.

We let the snakes dry, and in the meantime did some work on the backgrounds with oil pastels (which are wildly popular!). We talked about the kinds of things that are found in the desert, like cactus plants, mountains, rocks, sand. After the backgrounds were finished, the girls worked on gluing their snakes on and adding pattern to the borders.

It was a long and fun project that kept them busy for almost the entire class (which is 2 hours long). Can't wait to see what they create this week!


Collaboration drawing

This collaboration drawing was made by me and Malayna during a long car ride yesterday. (We were in my parents' car, coming back from visiting our family down the shore.) I started out by drawing a large shape on the page, then handed the paper and box of crayons to Malayna for her to add something. It was a fun way to spend a two-hour car ride!


Monday: made by me

These weren't technically made by me this past week. The things I've been working on this week aren't quite ready to be seen yet. These are 4x4" squares that I sell in my Etsy shop. They're fairly new to the shop - I just made them in June.

What did you make this week?


Controlling clutter, collections and stuff

Ever since I can remember I've been a collector of stuff. Books, stones, seashells, candles, art supplies, frames, furniture, etc, etc… I've tried a few times to whittle down the amount of stuff I have, but it just builds right back up again. I have a talent for squeezing lots of stuff into small spaces - my childhood room was the size of some people's closets, but that didn't stop me. I managed to have stuffed animals, knick-knacks, special notes from friends, clothes, magazines, books, and junk all packed into that tiny room.

My excuse has been that I'm an artist and being surrounded by stuff inspires me. It's true, but I don't necessarily want to SEE all that stuff everyday. There have been many times that we'll need something around the house (an extra chair, shelf, bookcase) and I'll remember something I bought and stored in the basement. We don't buy many new things - lots of my purchases are from thrift shops or Craigslist. It's my version of recycling.

The collecting gene has been passed along to Malayna. She collects a variety of things - shells, rocks (everywhere we go she finds rocks to bring home), picked flowers (and weeds), papers, papers, papers (an unending supply), trinkets, toys, etc. Sometimes the things go right in the trash the next day, but the majority of the time she remembers and asks where her prized find is.

We have too much stuff. I'm ready to get rid of most of it, but I don't know where to start. Should I start on the first floor and go room-by-room? Then what? I do donate things to thrift shops, but sometimes I'll start a bag for donating and then put the bag on the third floor or down the basement or in our mudroom where it'll sit and sit and sit. I lose interest. The job becomes too big and overwhelming. I'd rather do something else.

Part of the problem is that we have a total of 6 closets in our 100+-year-old house. And four of them are in our two bedrooms. I've had to get creative with our storage options, but then it starts to look cobbled-together and messy.

Is anyone else feeling this way? I'd like to start some kind of group, maybe on Facebook, where we share tips for purging and organizing, and even post before and after photos. If I don't do it with someone else, I'll just keep putting it off.

I'm ready to throw things away and have less stuff! Who's joining me?

edited to add: Here's link for the Facebook group, called simplify. I think you have to request to be a member and then I'll add you. Join us!


Art class: circles

Last week's art class theme was circles. I read the book "The Dot", which tells the story of a little girl who thinks she can't draw but ends up creating a series of dots in different sizes and colors. We also looked at Wassily Kandinsky's "Squares with Concentric Circles" and noticed how he used circles and mixed colors to create the artwork.

 {Squares with Concentric Circles}

I gave the children three colors of tempera paint to work with: red, yellow and blue. We folded the paper so that it ended up with eight equal spaces and the girls traced the fold marks with pencil so they would be easier to see. I started out with specific instructions: paint one small yellow circle, then on a different square paint a medium yellow circle and finally a large yellow circle. Repeat with red then blue. After they finished that part I told them to keep making circles around the original circles until the space was filled. They loved when the paint mixed together and created a new color - in fact, it was a surprise to them when it happened. After that, they were on a mission to create new colors.

It has worked out so far that we work on two projects in class - one before snack and one after. The first one is the main project and the second carries through the theme, but with a little more freedom. This time I had cut circles in letter-sized paper (inspired by this), and put out oil pastels, scissors, glue and construction paper. They were free to do what they wanted, and most of them decided to cover up the hole. I had two older girls in class this week (11-year-olds) and I sat them at a different table with their own supplies (some of which the younger girls didn't get). Their project made use of the circle hole by making little books about circles and attaching them to the hole in the paper. So creative!


Monday: made by me

Each Monday I'm going to post something that I made (or that Malayna and I made together). It may be a little sketch, or a bigger project. As much as I love summer and the freedom from schedules, I do feel the need to have some kind of planned activity, in real life and on the blog. Maybe this will help me post more during the summer months.

I don't know about you, but we have an endless supply of seashells and beach stones from our summer getaways. Both Malayna and I love to collect things, and sitting on the beach digging in the sand with my feet in the ocean is one of my favorite summer activities. (Calling it an activity is being generous - how "active" is it?)

Some years we don't even unpack our finds. I have a container in the yard with last year's shells and stones. This year, I put the treasure-filled bucket next to our outdoor dining table. When we have barbecues or are just hanging out after swimming, we pull out some stones and doodle (with Sharpie markers). I need some kind of container to hold the finished ones - right now some of them are clay dishes for pots (like the photo above), and some are used as weights to hold our placemats on the table. Others are lined up on our outdoor windowsills. The largest ones are used around the edges of the gardens.

What kinds of containers would you use for these? They have to be pretty and portable. Sometimes I have to move the rocks around since Lola likes to try and eat them. I find them scattered throughout the yard!

What did you (or your kids) make this weekend?


Art class update

Our yearly vacation to Cape May was absolutely wonderful. We had perfect weather and got to hang out with friends and family. We did not want to come home. I'm 98% sure that if we could sell our house and buy one within walking distance to the beach in Cape May, we'd do it. It would be nice if our friends and family could come too, though. Oh, and if Malayna's school could move there that would also be great.

{The first summer art class in the backyard.}

My first summer art class was a success! The girls in the class were so receptive to the project, and even ignored the swingset in the yard while we made art. I read "The Mixed Up Chameleon" by Eric Carle (thanks, Jill for letting me borrow your copy!) and showed them another chameleon book with lots of different patterns and colors. Then we talked about chameleons for a bit - how they blend in to their surroundings, their patterns, etc. Before class I made several templates for a body (I wasn't sure if each child would be able to draw the entire lizard). They shared the templates and worked really well together. After tracing the body, they added legs, eyes, and tongues (all done in pencil). Some even added a fly at the end of the tongue!

I talked about how we would decorate our chameleons. I handed out oil pastels and crayons and told them to draw patterns on the chameleons. They also added background stuff, like clouds, sun, and grass. When they finished with the drawing, they got to paint over them with watercolors. I explained (before they started with the drawing) how the oil pastels and crayons would resist the watercolors. They were really excited to actually see this happen in their work! They really had a great time and it was so fun to watch.

After their chameleons were finished, we took a snack break. They were even excited about that. (Seriously, this age rocks.) Our next mini-project was to draw the flowers I cut from the garden for each of them. We looked closely at the flowers, noticing the shapes - circle in the middle, little fuzzy things around the edge of the circle, long petals and a green stem.

One little girl was having trouble with her flower drawing and was erasing what she had done. She said, "I messed up!" (To which Malayna replied, "There is no messing up in art!") So I sat with her and helped her to look at the flower and see the shapes. After she drew it she got this big smile on her face and said, "Now THAT looks like a flower!" Watching her "get it" and knowing that she felt good about something she created was priceless.